The year is 2120 in Neo San Jose…
Neo San Jose rose like a phoenix from the ashes of the Kessler Crash. The falling remains of commercialized space travel had devastated most of the West Coast, yet San Jose endured. Driven forward by the same spirit of ingenuity that solved the climate crisis of the 21st century, the rubble and ruin of San Jose transformed into great pillars of prosperity within a single generation. Technology was adapted to humanity’s changing needs as our new society gave us complete freedom of personhood. Old hatreds vanished as concepts like race, gender, sexuality, and even species were no longer called into question. It wouldn’t be long before new divisions rose to take their place.
The open internet of the pre-crash years was no more, replaced by vast networks built on closed infrastructure. Though basic stripped-down content packages were provided to everyone, the elegant sense of form, function and fashion of The Shakers defined the trends of the age. To be part of The Shakers meant to commit wholly to their ideals and aesthetics. In exchange, you’d be granted the keys to an exclusive club. Extravagant body modifications, exclusive avatars, comprehensive wardrobe updates and instant club access. Being one of The Shakers meant being part of a brand – for life.
For the rest of us, living within the system would mean being part of The Pack, whose members ranged from data couriers to software engineers, artists, athletes, and e-game celebrities. Anyone could be a member of The Pack. Though free time was a luxury in Neo San Jose, most would be willing to spend it watching their favourite streamers do everything from dominating game tournaments to folding laundry. Being a member of the Pack meant that you’d always have a friend nearby, wherever you happened to be in the world.
Others rebelled against the status-quo and embraced freedom as a lifestyle. The Underground coalesced around a rejection of both major networks. They yearned for the internet of old, seeing themselves as real 21st century style hackers, artists, pranksters and punks. Using custom-built and often untested body modifications stripped of trackers, Underground members could rule the roads without sacrificing their freedom or privacy. Creativity was power to The Underground, whose appearances were as diverse as their skillsets. Being on the outside meant making mischief, bending rules and working together to push the world to be a free and open place.
Reale – “Their security was so cheap I’d hesitate to even call these files stolen.”
The people with power are the ones who don’t know how to use it. Humanity… No, the Earth as a whole faced catastrophe after catastrophe. We built ourselves up out of the rubble only to return to the same yoke. It’s easy to be told what to do. It’s easy to give up our privacy, our freedoms. After all, freedom is this intangible thing. It’s not going to give you a free spa day or exclusive avatars. The people up there in the towers, they don’t even know what it’s like to live on the streets. They don’t know what it takes for a cat on the streets to make ends meet.
My name is Reale. It’s a name given to me by my older brother, my Frere. He raised me right, he taught me that I can do better. And more than that, he helped fix my body and even taught me how to keep it running. A good diet and plenty of servo maintenance always beats difficult repairs. It’s hard to find autodocs available this far out, so it’s important to do what we can. It’d be easy to give up, to say it’s too hard.
One perk of having neuro-mods and cybernetics since before the legal age, you start learning young. I’d figured everything out about how they worked, then I learned everything about how everything else works. It’s just the kind of kitten I was! Play with a toy until it breaks. Then try breaking a new toy. Turns out I’m just really good at breaking toys. So good that I started drawing attention. That includes the wrong kind of attention…
It’s true, I’ve seen some pretty dark stuff happening out there, And the folk up in their towers do nothing, they turn a blind eye. There are real criminals out here, people who will do anything to turn a buck. People with no integrity. That’s why I joined The Underground. The people up there might call us creatures of chaos, rulebreakers and outlaws. And, well, we do break rules here and there, when they need to be broken. But we do the right thing. We keep our streets clean, both from criminals and from the corporate types reaching beyond their grasp. We protect people, whether it’s keeping their freedom or keeping them safe from harm.
Being part of The Underground means keeping my senses sharp. I might not have whiskers, or any fur at all for that matter but I can tell know when danger is approaching thanks to our hidden networks. Some of our business might be less than legitimate, but trust me, we’ve never taken anything from someone that didn’t deserve it.
Anyways, enough about me. You’re here because you’re curious about joining The Underground, right? Well, if that’s what you feel then you’re already a member. We just need to make sure we can trust you… And remove any trackers you might have, but it won’t be long before we get you fixed up.
Still interested in joining? I can promise you that you won’t regret it. Once you have a taste of real freedom, everything else seems bitter by comparison.
Madrigal – “Come on everyone, let’s hear you HOWL!”
Even two years feels like a lifetime ago. It’s so weird to think about. I was just an office drone then, checking over labels and manifests just so the company could put a “real human oversight” sticker on their product. Sure it paid well but the AI never made a mistake in all my years working. It never felt like I was really contributing anything. I still thought of videogames as a hobby even as I started winning tournaments. But even as I started to get popular on Howl I never thought of myself as a celebrity. I still can’t really believe it sometimes, having followers in the millions.
That reminds me, I’m Madrigal, by the way. I mean, you probably already know that but it never hurts to set the record straight. And speaking of records, I don’t mean to brag but my tournament record is still undefeated. That’s part of why you’re here, isn’t it? Or are you wondering what it takes to be a member of The Pack?
Well, it’s true, I wouldn’t be here as I am today if it weren’t for The Pack. They supported my hobbies, gave me a platform and helped make me the handsome malamute I am today without taking my autonomy. I’d never call myself one of the Shakers. The Pack let me stay true to who I am, they let me share myself with all the members of my pack. It doesn’t matter how far apart we live, we’re always sharing space.
Being a part of The Pack means chasing your ideals while living within the boundaries. We work together while being ourselves. It’s that passion and instinct that makes us who we are. We know that we don’t need to be anything other than what we really are deep down, whatever race, creed, gender or species. Our voices are heard as one, and those who would try to silence us had better beware!
The Pack’s prime network, Howl, offers us the perfect platform, a way to share our lives with each other, to watch and be watched. To be seen and heard by like minds in a safe and constructive environment. As long as you share the pack’s values and engage with our platform we can welcome you as a member. Just respect your packmates, obey the rule of law and we’ll take care of you. We might not have the superior tech of The Shakers or the off the grid freedoms of The Underground but we have what it takes. Whether it’s at home, at a tournament or abroad, whatever we do, we’ll do it the best that we can.
So, still interested in being a part of The Pack?
Still think you have what it takes?
I think you do.
I KNOW you do.
Quince – “Yes I’m a real dragon. Why should I settle for anything else?”
What does it take to be the best of the best? Does it take the raw talent of a prodigy? Is it working hard, applying yourself every day? The real answer is… Neither. To be the best of the best, you have to be one of The Shakers. Take it from a dragon like me. Quince, they call me. I rose up the ranks of The Shakers and I’m living proof of our success.
We set the standards of the age. We have the best technology, the best networks, and all the best body mods. Just look at me as an example. There’s an art to designing an ideal body and we have the best artists in the business. Wouldn’t you like to look just as good? All you have to do is sign yourself as one of The Shakers. We’ll take care of the rest.
I wouldn’t blame you for being jealous. These modifications aren’t available just anywhere. How about a fully working tail, fully biological? How about wings that you can really glide with? Or better yet, eyes that can see just how beautiful these iridescent scales really are.
You might think I’m bragging or just telling you what I think you want to hear, but no, it’s all real. And it can be real for you too. That’s what it means to be one of The Shakers. It’s an opportunity for life, to simply sign yourself over in exchange for getting everything you could ever want. Our algorithms can analyze you, identify your best traits and enhance them. We can find your perfect and make it your reality.
You might be thinking, “What do I need to give in exchange for all this?” The answer is nothing, nothing except joining the Shakers. I’m here talking to you, aren’t I? That means that you’re in, you’re here, and you have the opportunity of a lifetime. Let us find a way for you to best use your talents and we’ll do whatever we can to support you. You’ll get access to exclusive clubs, special avatars, everything you’ve ever dreamed of. And more.
We’re called The Shakers for a reason. We shake things up. We shape the world in a new image, improving it just as we improve ourselves. We’ve accomplished so much in the last few years, restoring Neo San Jose to a level of greatness far beyond what existed even before the crash.
Outsiders might say that we’re too exclusive or even accuse us of being conformist. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any similarities we share in aesthetics are only relative, a result of optimization and ideal construction.